Off The Shelf – 7/14/10

On July 17, 2010, in Community/Arts, by The Somerville Times

Poet Ed Galing

93, in a wheelchair, still writing and still kvetching!

By Doug Holder

When you are 93 it is an achievement just to get up in the morning. Well in spite of his infirmities my old friend Ed Galing, the poet Laureate  of Hatboro, Pa. still writes poetry and is being published by some of the finest literary magazines in America, not to mention The Somerville News. Not only that he still has the strength to gripe that the New York Quarterly refuses to publish him. Imagine that. I published Ed in every one of the 27 issues of Somerville’s literary journal Ibbetson Street, and promised him that as long as he is alive I will continue to do so.
Ed wrote to me recently:
“I’m old and venerable at 93. Indeed it is a struggle everyday—so much on my own—even though there is help. I have a ramp now to go out—one needs fresh air. I go out on an electric scooter—a chair with a motor. I don’t think I will use the walker anymore as it is too painful in the knee joints. I miss my wife and our youth, but it’s over. Being alone is hard—facing death is hard also. I try hard to be optimistic. Poetry keeps me going.”
Ed Galing was born in the Lower East Side of New York City in 1917. A child of Jewish immigrants, much of his poetry harks back to the teeming streets of the Lower East Side, with its pushcarts, street urchins, the maze of outdoor markets, the frock coat Jews, the whole milieu that was so wonderfully described in Irving Howe’s “The World of our Fathers.”
I have published many of Ed’s poems and I’d like to share one of them with you. Just to remind you that Ed is not going gently into the good night. By-the-way- for a guy of his age his poems make you sing, reminiscent of Louie Armstrong’s famed croaking plea: “Take your shoes off Lucy and let’s get juicy.” So if you are looking for a wholesome poem look elsewhere.

Steam Bath

on the lower east side
every friday afternoon
the holy rabbis
come to get their
steam bath
and shower,
sitting on wooden
with the fog
enveloping them
so you couldn’t even
see them,
these holy ones
turn into sexual
monsters, as they spew
dirty jokes, laugh
out loud
remark on the size
of their penises
and what they would do
to women,
and forget their holy mission,
you would be shocked
and surprised
but they still don’t
and later, the attendant
comes along with the
switch broom, to smack
their asses, till they are
red, till they scream in
as if to atone for all those
dirty thoughts they had,
feeling they deserve every whack
and thus,when they leave later on,
and return to their normal religious
virtues, they almost feel like
born-again christians

– Ed Galing


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